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Peanut Butter Panic

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Poor peanut butter. It has taken such a beating over the years.

girl eating peanut butter sandwhich

Jennifer Ginsberg: The fear of peanut allergies is so widespread that nearly all schools have become "Peanut Free Zones." I actually remember a time when I could bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school. Amazingly, I never witnessed the spontaneous death of another child from the mere scent of my sandwich.

Now we are told that if we pack an item in our child's lunchbox that not only contains peanuts, but any nuts, and anything that has been produced in a facility that processes peanuts, we may put another child into anaphylactic shock.

At my stepdaughter's private school, we were sent notes home on a weekly basis about this very topic. One note went so far as to threaten that even if our child had peanut butter for breakfast, the allergic child could still smell trace amounts on her hands and have a horrible reaction. Peanut butter is now contraband, and we are required to eliminate it entirely from our child's life because your child might have the 1 in 10,000 chance of a peanut allergy.

Strangely, "Peanut Butter Panic" is an affliction unique to upper-class Americans. When I told a group of moms in my toddler's play group that she loves peanut butter and eats delicious spoonfuls of it on a daily basis, the gasps were palpable. "But ... I didn't even think you were allowed to do that!" one mom exclaimed, clearly alarmed, as if I had given my daughter a pot brownie. The general consensus in the room was that peanut butter was dangerous, something to be avoided for the first three years of life, if not forever.

Do you ever hear about children in third-world countries having peanut allergies? Not only are these allergies nonexistent in most parts of the world, peanuts actually save the lives of starving children in Africa! A therapeutic feeding program called Project Peanut Butter has been developed by the leading authority on severe child malnutrition, Dr. Manary. Endorsed by the World Health Organization, Project Peanut Butter recognizes the amazing nutritional value of the peanut and uses it to make a formula for starving children which offers a 95 percent recovery rate.

Is it possible that the poor peanut has become a scapegoat for all of the anxieties associated with parenthood? The world can be a frightening place, and perhaps it is easier to launch a war on peanut butter than it is to bravely face the real issues which threaten our children. According to some doctors, 25 percent of parents believe their children have a serious allergy, while in actuality only 4 percent do. Roughly, the same number of Americans die each year from lightning striking them as from peanut allergies. Perhaps we should make our schools "Lightning Free Zones" as well!

It is time to lay off the poor peanut. If you happen to be the parent of a child with a legitimate peanut allergy, please do not demand that all nuts be removed from my child's life. Teaching your child that the entire world needs to accommodate him is not a realistic life lesson. It is your job to keep your child safe until they are able to do so themselves.

Peanuts are a healthy and delicious food for the overwhelming majority of children, not to mention a lifesaver for many. Let's start to give the peanut the respect it is due!

next: My Child Is Having Surgery
794 comments so far | Post a comment now
Monica January 3, 2010, 7:59 PM

I don’t think they need to ban peanut butter from schools. But the parent does need to explain to their child that they shouldn’t eat anything that another child gives them because they have a peanut butter allergy. No one is going to go around looking at labels of the food they pack in their kids lunch bag to make sure it wasn’t made in a factory that processes peanuts. And I wouldn’t stop feeding my child peanut butter because your kid might smell peanut butter on his breath (although my kid doesn’t even like peanut butter, who’s kid is this?). This is extreme. If your child is that allergic then maybe we should stick all the kids with a peanut butter smelling allergies in the same class and make it a peanut butter free zone. LOL. Are they going to go around smelling my kids breath? What’s next, strawberries? Aren’t they at the top of the list of foods that cause the most allergic reactions. No Strawberries either?! No strawberry fruit roll-ups, pop tarts or toaster strudels. Definitely no peanut butter with strawberry jam sandwich. How about Honey? No Honey NUT Cheerios marshmallow treats. And definitely no seafood. The list can go on. I think if we got that far then the school should provide breakfast and lunch for free! That way they don’t have to worry and we don’t have to worry.

alvise January 5, 2010, 1:05 PM

It is amazing what this person wrote… You cannot even imagine what means having a child who can die for an allergic reaction! Where is your solidarity, your human sensitivity? do you think parents of children with allergies wants to create a safe enviroment for their children just for fun? Why do you only think about your child who is not in danger of life and not about children who need your help only with a samll sacrifice?Is food more important than life? sorry for my English but I’m Italian and I am amazed for what I read…..

Mindi January 12, 2010, 2:37 PM

Let me say this: Ms. Jennifer Ginsberg I think your ignorant opinion would change if you had witnessed one of your children stop breathing from nuts. We as parents are not saying PB should be eliminated from YOUR childs diet GOD FORBID, but we are saying, please dont bring it around our children who can DIE from it. Just like I dont let my child play with loaded GUNS, you shouldn’t let your child WAVE the loaded weapon (nuts) around at school. Ignorance such as YOURS makes me so BLESSED God gave made me my daughter’s mom and NOT you… because I bet she would not be around for long if you were her mother.

Mindi January 21, 2010, 2:56 PM

THOUGHT you’d like to see what ACTUALLY happens to my daughter MS. IGNORANT.

Anonymous January 22, 2010, 11:52 AM

I hope your grandchildren are born with life threatening food allergies!!!!

Traci February 10, 2010, 11:32 AM

Wow, the hostility of these parents whose children have allergies. Last year my son’s daycare went “nut-free” because there was one child that has a peanut allgery. I did not and do not agree with the policy. So, I immersed myself in this issue.

This is what I found out. PEOPLE listen up! Your childs allergy can be controlled without implementing bans. Even FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) does not recommend food bans.

Your peanut allgeric child is much more likely to die in an automobile accident on the way to your daycare or school than from their allergy.

According to the CDC most people that perish from exposure to a food allergy are teens and young adults. Out of the children that were under the age of 10 half died from an exposure to milk the other half from exposure to peanuts and fish. Are we going to ban milk too? Most exposures occured at home or a restaurant.

Some would argue there is an airborne risk when it comes to peanut allergy. This is true if you are in a room with hundreds of peanut shells or peanut packs being cracked opened at once or if you work in a factory where peanut products were processed in way that the peanut protein went airborne. There is absoluting no evidence that anyone has died from an airbourne exposure.

I have also found many of the parents of peanut allergic children love to play the victim. They know hardly anything about the affliction their child has and they choose to place the burden of their childs care on everyone else. If you have a child with a peanut allergy do your research, get educated before you go on one of these forums making fools out of yourselves claiming your child will die from the smell of peanut butter. It is simply not true.

Rachel February 19, 2010, 9:47 PM

I was never allergic before. But last year I found myself in the ER because someone ate a Peanut Butter Kashi Bar riding on the exercise bike next to me at the health center. Luckily my workout center is next to the hospital so I did not die.

Then yesterday my sister ate shrimp next to me which caused me to go to the er again. Even though I did not eat SHrimp the mere smell of it could have killed me.

I am all for Peanut Free Schools, Planes, Restraurants, Stores, etc

Stacey May 23, 2010, 8:38 PM

Wow, it’s so scary you have an MSW. Having this degree actually implies you care about others. Parents are asking kids to go six to seven hours without peanut butter. Have it for breakfast. Yes, you might have to actually teach your children to wash their hands. Have it after school. Have it for dinner. Have it all weekend. Caring for others is a value I hope to instill in my children. Yes, it’s MY job to protect MY child, but I certainly am not so selfish as to lack an instinct to protect someone else’s child in a dangerous situation. If a child started to chase a ball into the street, I would try to keep them from going in the street, my kid or not. One side stands on the side of protecting lives, the lives of children no less. One side stands on the side of protecting…well, sandwiches I guess.

Anonymous August 4, 2010, 1:56 PM

This article is so absurd! I think the writer is obviously grasping at loose ends to get noticed. Ignorance is bliss to those who live there, but to the rest of us, it is so obvious. Get a clue, I mean really, we are talking about life and death! You really jumped off a cliff on this one to write something so blatently uneducated and unaware. I certainly would not want a letter like this to follow me around especially if I worked with the public. This article is so wrong it almost seems like a prank to get people like myself going.

sharon August 4, 2010, 2:02 PM

I cannot believe how naive and uneducated this article is! If your child had a life threatening issue, how would you feel if someone brushed it off as if it was nothing and put their life in danger!

Anaphylaxis Aware August 4, 2010, 2:04 PM

I have to say that I too am disappointed with the lack of research on this topic.
You obviously have never held a child (or yours for that matter) in your arms while they are unaware of what is happening to them when their throat closes up and face swells up imensely. I have seen that and I, as well as any other parent of aPeanut Allergic child do not ask for this, or wish it upon anyone.
Peanut Allergies are on the rise, you may want to look into that. And lordwilling your child will never become allergic. However if your child does, you will see why we are so fearful of the terrible peanut.

karen j August 4, 2010, 2:09 PM

All I can say, and believe me, there is a lot I want to say but it will obviously fall on deaf ears, is that even if the letters and rules are to protect ONE child, that is someones child and I would be willing to bet if it was your child you wouldn’t be whining about how unfair it is to deprive your child of peanut butter. I hope you never have to deal with something like this or someone as ignorant about the topic as you. People like you are exactly why something needs to be done.
Do unto others……. Anyone remember that one?????

Anonymous August 4, 2010, 2:14 PM

Actually, it’s not more likely that a child will die in an automobile accident than a peanut allergy.

I took my son to the park, I wash his hands and sanitize whenever we go out. He had an anaphylactic reaction by going down a slide…touching a slide that had peanut butter on it.

Are you kidding me? Like the above person said, we do not ask for this! Do you think I wanted me son to react by having fun sliding? I think not…and that’s with us being diligent at keeping his hands clean.

I pray that all those against this, never have to see their child react or die before their eyes.

Anonymous August 4, 2010, 2:20 PM

I forgot to mention that that slide ride was his last.
But people like you obviouslly don’t understand that this peanut that deserves some credit, TOOK MY CHILDS LIFE!!!!!!!

I definately have a problem with this…you should truly be ashamed of yourself ofr posting such a topic and disagreeing.

Karma will catch up with you one day.

carriejoy August 4, 2010, 2:41 PM

If you HOMEschooled your kid, just think of all the money you could save on that private school tuition and how much peanut butter you could eat!

I used to think along the same lines as you Ms Ginsburg. But really, is your convenience so very important that someone else’s very life is worth the risk? I’m not saying that you should never eat common allergens. But I am saying that ifyou’re going to participate in a group thing (like a public or private school) then going along with the policies is kind of what you signed up for.

Now, I have to say that the ban on little children making a “gun” with their fingers and pointing it and saying “bang” and being suspended is extreme. But I would say it is reasonable in most schools to ban the bringing of actual weapons.

I don’t think PB gets a “bad rap”. Most moms that are “elite” and “upper class” seem to be freaks about all kinds of stuff - whether it’s their Hanna Andersson matchy matchy or High Fructose Corn Syrup. All your things about peanut butter are correct. Except for when it causes grave illness and death.

And yes. I had a friend die from eating a salad that had peanuts in it. She asked. She was lied to (because ya know, how bad can peanuts be?) and she died. She was 17. And a fabulous, fabulous girl.

So, feel free to cram all the PB down your family’s throat. But please, just like you encourage good handwashing after a bowel movement (for germ’s sake, right?), encourage good washing after eating PB. After all - poop and PB can cause illness and death.


jen August 4, 2010, 4:31 PM

you look like such an intelligent and beautiful woman, but your word are so ignorant and hmmm “sour!” Food allergy is a disability, and I bet you will not dare to make fun of cancer patients such as you did in this article. Disease is real, and your son or daughter just might be the next one, and we will hear your new story at that time

Mike August 4, 2010, 6:15 PM

Sorry to put a cramp in your lifestyle Jennifer….peanut allergies can kill, instead of treating this like some attempt at humor why dont you teach your daughter about the fact that there are kids with food allergies and that she needs to wash her hands after eating peanut butter to keep everyone safe….its not that difficult and by being emphathic versus cynical we might be able to all live safely until a cure is found.

I sure wouldnt go see you if I had an alcohol problem, but your attitude makes me want to drink!

Chantelle August 4, 2010, 7:47 PM

You cannot have a resume this stellar and be this dumb! My child could DIE from this, but you want to use cutesy little phrases like “give the peanut the respect its due”. Seriously?? The snarky tone of your article makes me nauseous. We’re supposed to chuckle at your sarcasm because you have never witnessed the spontaneous death of another child? What is funny about that?And where are you getting 1 in 10,000? Wait, I probably better just ignore that because it is obvious from your paragraph about percentages that math is not really your strong suit. I want to see the article you write after you ride in an ambulance with your child in anaphalactic shock, watching their blood pressure bottom out, watching them struggle to breathe, watching them panic. I wonder if you’ll feel like “laying off the poor peanut” then. You are insensitive, uninformed and insulting to those of us who struggle with this on a daily basis. Shame!

Lisa Norvell August 5, 2010, 8:45 AM

I understand you feel like peanut/peanut butter bans are too restrictive. Do you think the school that our child attends wants to take the chance and the legal aspect of not having a nut free zone and banning peanuts. Our son almost died after eating a peanut butter wafer at 13 months old. When he is re-tested every year, he is off the chart allergice to peanuts/seeds, tree nuts, etc. I cannot believe you must have peanut butter sandwiches in order to live. Our child could die if he were to take one bite of peanuts. Also you mentioned about third world countries and their children dying of nut allergies. How in the world would we know this for a fact, they are third world countries. They have limited resources and probably little to no peanut butter, let alone food. I find your article insulting to all of us over protective Moms who by the way must be the way because of people just like yourselves. Prior to having our son, I worked with someone with a nut allergy and was very respectful of her and would not bring dishes to work to harm her in anyway. I guess its the Christian way and respectful way in which I was brought up. We are raising our son the same way. However, he has already had some problems with some kids at school who simply do not understand, I blame the parents. Try to explain this to your 1st grader, why some people act the way they do. Now that he is 8 yrs old, he says some people are just down right Mean hearted. Amen!!!!

K August 28, 2010, 10:07 PM

This has gotten RIDICULOUS. The only kids I have ever met with “severe allergies” are kids that come from homes with helicopter parents. Kids who aren’t allowed to get dirty and play like normal children. I DO believe that severe allergies are a REAL thing, but not nearly as wide-spread and common as it seems. I have a young son myself, and the list of things he is not allowed to bring to school is INSANE. Almost no fruit! because kids may share snacks, and someone could be allergic. In my opinion, that is flat out stupid. How DARE I want to send my child to school with a healthy snack, some other kid who has parents that believe their child is so much more important and special than mine may eat something they should be taught they’re not allowed to have.

I’m 25 years old, and when I was in grade school, there was ONE child with a food allery. He knew what he could and couldn’t have (FYI, we were allowed peanut products at school) and he carried an epi pen. I went to school from kindergarten to grade 8 with this child and he NEVER had a problem. I’m not that old, this wasn’t that long ago.

Educate your children. Take responsibly for your own children. And for god sakes.. STOP fussing over every spec of dirt, and every sniffle. The majority of these “allergies” aren’t nearly as severe as everyone seems to think. RELAX.

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